Smart looks, driver-focused cabin, unruffled dynamics
A Cayman - or a good hot hatch - is more fun to drive
What is it?
Old. In 2023, the Audi TT marks a quarter of a century of service, having first burst onto the scene in those pre-Millennium Bug days of 1998 with one of Ingolstadt’s freshest and most alluring shapes.
Thankfully, the original TT was – and remains – a bit of a style hero.
Where that first car earned its own chapter in the history of attractive coupes, this third-generation car – though still handsome in its own ModernAudi way – is happy to settle for a couple of pages.
What does the ‘TT’ bit of the Audi TT mean?
It doesn’t mean ‘twin-turbo’, sadly, although hilariously a bi-turbo Audi TT did exist. Celebrating Quattro’s 30th anniversary, Audi allowed a little fun to slip through the net, and slotted in one of its most powerful engines into its smallest car: 375bhp B5 RS4 twin-turbo V6, meet Mk1 TT. It was called the 2.7T Quattro GmbH concept, and it was a bit mad.
So, TT actually stands for ‘Tourist Trophy’. As in, road racing on the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy; an event synonymous with danger, derring-do and heroic levels of sporting ability.
That’s cool. Does the TT live up to such a moniker, then?
It does... not. The TT is and has always been a safe, almost sensible coupe that’s decent to drive, but a long way from, well, heroic levels of sporting ability. This third-generation car – originally launched back in 2014 – does nothing to change that. It had a big update back in 2018 to coincide with the TT’s 20th anniversary, but since then it’s been a steady diet of special edition and run-out models.
The TT’s time in the sun is coming to an end, and its successor will be electric. Until that day arrives, you get a choice of a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine (no diesel anymore, unsurprisingly) with two power outputs – 195bhp and 240bhp, which Audi confusingly calls ‘40’ and ’45’ for reasons… known only to Audi – and two drivetrain options (FWD and quattro AWD).
Thankfully the trim levels are simple: all the front-wheel-drive cars come only in ‘40’ spec, with the base model ‘S line’ starting from £36,365, through the ‘Black Edition’ from £37,865, to the ‘Final Edition’, which kicks off at £41,910. The quattro cars get the more powerful 2.0-litre unit, with prices ranging from just under £41k to £46k through the above trims.
Above that, there’s the AWD 315bhp Audi TT S – also a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo, just pumped up significantly. That comes in either Black or Final Edition, with prices kicking off at a whisker under £50k.
Isn’t there an even faster one?
There is. It’s called the Audi TT RS and is available in regular Coupe or ‘Audi Sport Edition’ guise, the former costing £58,165, the latter £62,165. Both come with a sledgehammer under the bonnet, also known as ‘multiple-engine-of-the-year-award-winner’, also known as a 395bhp, 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbo. Sounds like a mini-rally car, goes like thunder.
Allied to a slick-shifting DSG seven-speed gearbox and quattro, this thing is capable of 0-62mph in a claimed 3.7 seconds (likely quicker, knowing how conservative Audi is with these things). Hilarious pace.
Even more hilariously, Audi built a version of the TT RS dubbed the ‘Iconic Edition’, limited to 100 cars worldwide (with just 11 in the UK). That's the grey car in the images above. Over the TT RS’s standard spec, the IE also got a raft of aerodynamic addenda to better aid track performance – a trick wing, diffusers, flics, side skirts and so on – along with a whopping great price of just over £87k. Whether it seemed like a good investment is moot – all have been sold.
So is the TT good overall, then?
Better looking without the wings and diffusers available on the special edition cars, that’s for sure, the TT retaining a pleasingly pure profile that looks smart in 2023’s world. As for driving? As we said up top, it’s safe. It won’t provoke you into sporadic moments of helmsmanship, but it’s a dependable, predictable and decent drive with good steering, a decent ride (can get a little firm as you move up the trims, mind) and good drivetrain. Opt for the RS version and it can be devastatingly quick across country.
What's the verdict?
Over 25 years, the TT’s ethos hasn’t changed: this remains a car that’s easy-going to drive and to own while still being sharp, especially in terms of styling. Consider one of Audi’s chief local rivals down the road in Munich is making any number of egregious design missteps, and this clean, taut little coupe makes sense.
Where it lags is when you consider its proper rivals. The TT won’t satisfy in the same way a Porsche Cayman or Alpine A110 can, but as an everyday package it’s more easily justified.